Friday, March 14, 2014


Thank God you don't get your news here.  Otherwise, you'd just now be finding out that CRCer, BRC employee, and local hardwoman racer, Mary Syrrist, was hit by a truck on Tuesday morning, and she's in the hospital.  Which, you probably don't need a news source to tell you anyway, sucks a whole lot.

I am pretty out of touch; I don't ride road bikes anymore, and I don't actually know Mary.  But I do know 250 and Owensville, the intersection where she was hit.  It was a poorly conceived intersection, even 25 years ago before there was the kind of East-West traffic between Charlottesville and Crozet that there is today.  In my earliest memories of that crossing, I'm in the back seat of my neighbor's dad's car, on the way home from a middle school dance out in Crozet, and I'm, I guess, 10 years old, and we're listening to the radio and goofing off in the back seat, and it's dark out, and there's a woman standing between crumpled hunks of steel and broken glass on the north side of the intersection, bleeding.  I thought I saw a turn signal, she screams.

Development and traffic, of course, haven't made things any better out there.  A few years later, just one intersection to the West of that spot, at Tillman and 250, my buddy pulled out in front of a pa-diddle, totaling his brand new Civic and damn near getting himself killed.  One intersection to the East and a year after that, my friend Todd hit an 8-pointer doing 55 mph in his old Volvo, and neither of them - the deer or the Volvo - ever ran again.

So it was with real suspicion that I listened to cyclists, the year I moved back to Virginia, when they estimated that the safest way out of Charlottesville via bike was 250.  How could that be?  The answer, sadly, is it's the lesser evil.  Try riding from town on Garth, Avon, Earlysville, Old Lynchburg, or most other roads out of town, or - God forbid - 20 north or south, and you'll think to yourself that you'd rather be on 250 right about now.  Traffic volume aside, at least 250 has a wide shoulder.

If you pick the right route through these roads, you can ride a metric century or so past a dozen markers, maybe more now, mostly flowers and crosses and trinkets and notes, and the solemness of such a ride feels a little bit like you're rolling through a cemetery, except that those markers aren't graves, they're where shit actually happened, and you're standing on the spot where lives changed and ended.

I love road bikes.  Something about the sleek lines, the weight and feel, the emphasis of stiff-yet-smooth design in most modern carbon frames; these are beautiful machines.  And road riding, between the self-reliance and the sheer speed of it, is maybe the nearest approximation that we humans can get to actually flying.  But safe?  No.

Someone told me that there are, today, 3 accidents/month at the intersection of Owensville and 250.  West of there, I imagine that number goes way down, as traffic tapers and the roads become decidedly more rural.  But safe?  No.

Dale Earnhardt.
Tom Simpson.
Kristof Goddaert
Speed ain't safe.  Never has been.  And really, innovate however much you want, but it can't be.

But safER?  We can do that.
There is progress right here at the local level.
Writing your congressman.  Signing petitions.  Wearing your helmet.  I really do believe these things can make a difference.

Alternatively, you can go the other way and take the fight - head on - to one questionably piloted truck at a time.  Sorry as I am, I do hope Mary put a dent in that son of a bitch.

Most importantly, and even if you don't believe things can change, you can still make a difference for Mary and her family right now, during what I imagine is a really tough time.  I'll trail off here with this message from all around fast lady and do-gooder, Sarah Gran.

Ride safe, and do what you can.

From: Sarah Gran

As many of you have heard, this week Mary Syrrist was in a serious bike accident and hospitalized at UVa.  She will be going back home soon but her injuries, which include several broken bones, will take a while to heal.  The most common response I’ve heard from people when talking about this is a desire to help in some way.

One way you can help is to sign up for bringing a meal to them.  I’ve set up an account on Meal Train which makes it pretty easy to pick a calendar day and commit to bringing Mary, Chris and their two kids a meal.  Just use the following link to sign up:

Additionally, they could use some help in the following:

  • Childcare for Max (age 4) or Sylvia (almost 2).  Max is in school M-F 9:00-5:00 so the most help is needed for Max on the weekend and evening hours.  Sylvia anytime during the day as she is not in school or daycare right now
  • Diapers and baby wipes: Size 5
  • House Cleaning and Laundry:  Please coordinate with me if you are interested in helping with household tasks or paying for a cleaning service
  • Relay Foods Gift Certificate

Please feel free to share this email with others who may be interested in helping.

I am available to answer any questions you may have about what the family needs.  

On behalf of Mary, Chris, Max and Sylvia, thank you for your continued support during this difficult time.

Sarah Gran

1 comment:

  1. I might mention that there is a County Comprehensive plan rewriting process going on right now. I propose that cyclists and runners both email and demand safer places to run, walk and cycle in Albemarle County. It's time we prioritize improving or rerouting the so called bike route in our county, and document and protect other key areas for cycling and running as scenic routes.